Western NY man, 90, pleads guilty to fatally beating wife of 68 years with a hammer

A 90-year-old man admitted in court Wednesday that he battered his wife of nearly 68 years to death with a hammer during an argument but offered no explanation as to why he struck her.

Seated in a wheelchair, John Bunz pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter as part of a plea bargain in state Supreme Court in Buffalo. He had been charged with second-degree murder.

Bunz killed 89-year-old Virginia Bunz on March 21 in the retirement village apartment they shared in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, authorities said.

After his arrest, Bunz told police the two had been arguing "and I took a hammer to her," court documents show.

Judge Russell Buscaglia, speaking loudly into his microphone after it appeared Bunz could not hear, asked him if he hit his wife 30 times, as prosecutor Paul Bonanno said.

"Possibly, yes," responded the gravelly voiced Bunz, who gave his birth date as Nov. 25, 1919.

Prosecutors agreed to the plea because of Bunz's age but would still recommend a sentence of around 20 years because of the violence involved in Virginia Bunz's death, Bonanno said. The charge carries a range of 5 to 25 years.

The couple's adult son and daughter approved the plea agreement, Bonanno said. Neither was in court.

Bunz will be held without bail until he is sentenced Sept. 7.

His lawyer, David Steinhilber, declined to comment outside the courtroom.

Bunz was hospitalized briefly the morning of the killing for injuries described as self-inflicted. He was in court later that day with two black eyes and a bruised neck.

John and Virginia Bunz celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary on April 4, 2007, according to an item that year in The Buffalo News. It described John Bunz as a retired chemist and technician for Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.